GOP Voters Learn The Ropes Of Caucusing

Feb 22, 2012

SPOKANE, Wash. - Some Republican voters in the Northwest have more to figure out than just which presidential candidate to vote for. They’re figuring out how to vote in a caucus. And as Jessica Robinson reports, the different campaigns want to make sure their supporters know how it works.

Around 50 Republican voters gather in an auditorium in Spokane Valley to learn about the caucus system. The guest star: Josh Romney, Mitt's son.

Romney: “If everyone in this room were to grab 10 people and show up at the caucuses you could have a huge impact on what happens on March 3. A room like this can actually determine the outcome of this race.”

And that's the first thing that sets the caucuses apart from the primaries Northwest voters are used to. Voters have to actually be at the same place, at the same time.

Kannapien: “Okay, so I got my precinct number – it's 4025, right? Let's see …”

Rob Kannapien has just found his house on a big poster-sized map with lots of numbers. He's matching that with a list of addresses.

Kannapien: “So that's where I go for the caucus, right?”

Kannapien has already decided he's supporting Romney, so the morning of the caucus he'll go to a nearby home and vote to elect a delegate who's pledged to Romney.

Kannapien: “This is our first time, so hopefully it will be a good experience.”

The delegates eventually go on to the county caucus, possibly the state convention at the end of May, and maybe even the Republican National Convention in August. So those votes count. But in Washington caucus day also includes a separate straw poll that’s non-binding, more of a snapshot of where voters stand.

Precinct captain Diana Wilhite says voters who are used to dropping a ballot in the mail may be in for a surprise.

Wilhite: “You know it's like a debate, you have to give your best points. You'll get a lot of people there who are very passionate about their candidate and why they think he's the right person.”

Wilhite knows that because she's been a precinct officer for 19 years. That's right, caucuses are nothing new in Washington -- they’re just typically only attended by party activists and hard-core political junkies. But the state's presidential primary was eliminated to save money and so this year, the caucus is the whole shebang for Republican voters.

Meanwhile in Idaho, Republicans will participate in the first-ever statewide GOP presidential caucus.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network